Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has revealed, a good two years too early, that he still pines to be president. Does this open flirtation help his cause?
Cruz’ main selling point to Republican voters is that the American Experiment in Freedom is in dire danger. As such, it seems he would benefit from striking a pose of the dutiful soldier who only wants to help save the Republic. Think Donald Trump’s “I didn’t have to do this, but …” narrative. Instead, Cruz comes across as the ambitious politician hoping to fulfill a cherished personal career objective.
Saying the Second Part First
When asked by Newsmax TV host Tom Basile on July 1 whether he planned to run for the White House in 2024, Cruz replied: “Well, sure. I’m certainly looking at it. I’ll tell you, 2016 was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. We came incredibly close. We had an incredible grassroots army, 326,000 volunteers nationwide.”
Within seconds, he added: “Right now, the battleground is fighting back against [President] Joe Biden and [Vice President] Kamala Harris and the incredible threat they are posing to our liberty. I’m proud to be leading that fight right now in the U.S. Senate.”
Cruz is a very experienced politician, so he should have realized voters are infinitely more interested in what he is doing to “lead the fight” against the Biden administration than they are in how much fun he had running for president five years ago.
As the Republican Party becomes more entrenched in the America First populism of Trump, the red base is looking for action, not words. There is no better example to be found than the meteoric rise of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the party ranks.
DeSantis is considered a strong potential 2024 candidate. He astutely boosts this perception not by talking about how much he would like to run but by making concrete efforts to check an overreaching Biden administration inside the Sunshine State. From taking on Big Tech censorship to opposing the indoctrination of schoolchildren by the progressive left, among other notable deeds, DeSantis is building a resumé that will do the speaking for him should he choose to make a White House bid.
Cruz may be further hampered by serving as an elected official in Washington for a party whose voters overwhelmingly despise the Potomac morass. Congress has earned a reputation as a “do-nothing” entity for years, and with the current 50-50 split in the U.S. Senate, this is likely to continue. As a result, all of the excitement within GOP voting ranks today is being drummed up far from the Swamp. GOP-held governor’s mansions are perceived as doing much more to roll back federal progressive establishment excess than any elected Republican in D.C.
Pushing a Certain Someone Aside
Finally, Cruz’ 2024 ogling indulges in the capital error of ignoring Trump’s continued reign as the driving force within the party. This is so undisputed that a retiring establishment-aligned Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), who has nothing to lose as he will not face re-election, on June 27 declared that Trump is “definitely the leader” of the GOP due to his “high popularity among the Republican base.”
Cruz seems determined to play down this fact as he looks toward ’24. “It took Jimmy Carter to give us Ronald Reagan,” the senator told National Review on June 18. “And I think Joe Biden is Jimmy Carter 2.0, and is setting the stage for an incredible conservative revival.”
This political miscalculation on the ambitious Cruz’ part could be a strategic error that points at the very heart of his shaky connections with the GOP base. Formulaic Ronald Reagan namedropping to National Review went out with Eric Cantor in 2014. By refusing to acknowledge how much Trump and his movement means to core Republican voters, Cruz may be alienating the very people he will need to attract to fulfill his 2024 aims.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.